Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Semi-Freezer Cooking: Bolognese Sauce (or Tacos!!!)

There are some nights when I just need a quick meal but I don't want to serve a less than healthy meal like processed foods. So my solution is to "process" whole foods myself at home and have things in the freezer that can be ready in 20 minutes or less. I am a planner so a lot of times I will plan to use one of my "processed" foods ahead of time. For example, Wednesdays are really busy for us with produce co-op and PE class at the YMCA for the kids and then church in the evenings. I don't want to have to eat out or go through a drive thru so a lot of Wednesdays we will have pasta. Growing up Italian in Brooklyn, NY, it was actually a sin (in my family and the greater neighborhood even) to serve jar sauce unless you had canned it yourself over the summer (which we did). SO, I came up with this recipe which actually makes 7-8 packets of meat sauce base for that slow cooked Bolognese Sauce in 20 minutes. I have served it to my grandmother and I am still alive! LOL! This recipe is also an awesome way to sneak lots of veggie into those picky eaters.

Kristi's Bolognese Base

5 pounds ground meats of choice
4 onions
5 ribs of celery with leaves
5 cloves of garlic (or more . . . we like a lot of garlic)
2 zucchini
16 oz mushrooms
4 carrots
1 large Sam's Club sized can of diced tomatoes
12 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh minced flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp pepper

Process all of the fresh veggies in the food processor until they are very small bits. Set aside. In a LARGE pot, cook your meat in batches so it browns and doesn't boil and turn gray. Remove the meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the veggies in the meat grease in batches until soft. Remove the veggies to a bowl and discard remaining grease. Using the same pot, return the meat to the pot and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat and stir until paste is melted and starts to bubble and turn a rusty reddish-brown color. Add your veggies and diced tomatoes with their liquid. Stir well and add your seasonings. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook uncovered for at least 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Let it cool and transfer to freezer bags or containers of your choice in 3 cup portions. It will be the consistency of a thick ground beef chili. Freeze until ready to use. This recipe usually yields 7-8 packets of sauce base. Please ignore the 6 inches of snow in my freezer. I need to defrost it. I usually stack the bags like this for maximum storage space. I do the same with dried beans that I have prepared.

When I am ready to make the sauce, I usually set a packet of sauce base on the counter in the morning.

By dinner time it is mostly defrosted and slides right out of the bag and into a medium sauce pan. Then I add a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and 2 tsp Italian seasoning. Simmer over low heat while your pasta is cooking. If you want to make it a true Bolognese Sauce, stir 1 cup of milk or cream into the sauce about 2 minutes before removing from the heat. It is fine as a meat sauce but the cream just adds more flavor and richness. Serve your sauce over your favorite pasta (we had penne).

NOTE: You can use just beef in this recipe but, I usually use a mixture of beef, pork, veal, sausage, turkey or whatever I have on hand to add up to 5 pounds of meat. You can also add more or different veggies. This is my basic recipe but I have used bell peppers and eggplant in it before with good results. I try to use whatever is in season.

ANOTHER NOTE: You can use the fully prepared sauce to put together a lasagna or baked ziti or in any recipe you would use a meat sauce.

LAST NOTE (I PROMISE): You can use the packet of sauce as a taco meat by omitting the 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning and adding an envelope of taco seasoning (or the equivalent of homemade taco seasoning) and 1/3 cup of water. Simmer together in a pan and serve as you would for tacos, burritos, whatever you like.

I am Linking up with

Jen @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Lisa @ Blessed with Grace

Cole @ All the Small Stuff

Gayle @ The Grocery Cart Challenge


Stacie said...

Yum--looks good and I can never find enough places to sneak in veggies for my husband, so I'll definitely try this one!

FrouFrouBritches said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I am trying to not be so dependent on processed food. I have a child with autism on a gluten free/casein free diet so he can't have most processed food anyway. I will definitely try this. thanks so much!

Aubree said...

Looks yummy! I love being able to freeze as much of my food as possible. This is great :)

~Aubree Cherie

Aubree Cherie said...

I also love that the veggies have been 'snuck in' :)

~Aubree Cherie

Canned Ham Traveler said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I too love having homemade frozen foods ready for an easy dinner.

Petie said...

This recipe looks great. Our busy schedules lead to a lot of processed meals, but I want to try to avoid it too. This is a great idea, thanks for sharing!!!